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Unilever PLC (ULVR)

  Print      Mail a friend       Annual reports

Wednesday 19 December, 2001

Unilever PLC

Q4 Pre-Close Presentation

Unilever PLC
Unilever NV.
19 December 2001

Release: Immediate


The following is the presentation text for the Unilever pre-close
teleconference, given by Howard Green, head of investor relations, at 1400 hrs
GMT today, December 19 2001.

The purpose of this conference call is to update the market on the progress of
our business and is a precursor to our 'close' period, ahead of the fourth
quarter results announcement on February 14 2002.

This update is based on the first two months of trading in the quarter. Let me
start by updating you on the two key elements of our original outlook
statement namely EPS growth and growth of our leading brands.

EPS Growth

Firstly, we expect fourth quarter earnings per share before exceptional items
and goodwill amortisation to be ahead by around 35% which is consistent with
the achievement of our full year target growth rate of low double digits.

Within this we expect operating margin before exceptional items and goodwill
amortisation to be ahead by over 250 bps which reflects the ongoing
contribution from Path to Growth procurement and restructuring and Bestfoods
integration programmes. For the year we expect operating margin beia to be
ahead by around 170 bps.

We estimate associated costs, included in operating profit before exceptional
items and goodwill amortisation, to be around Euro80 million in the quarter,
bringing the annual total to around Euro350 million. Associated costs were
Euro173 million in 2000 with Euro133 million in the fourth quarter.

We continue to see a benefit in advertising and promotion in line with the
level we saw last quarter through lower media rates, internal productivity
measures and the inclusion of Bestfoods within our overall media buying

Growth of leading brands

Secondly, in respect of our leading brands we expect growth for the year to be
around 5%, showing clear momentum over the 3.8% achieved in 2000. This measure
now includes the growth rate of the former Bestfoods leading brands in the
fourth quarter as we reach a full year under Unilever's management.

If we look at the growth of leading brands in the fourth quarter then in Foods
we are seeing a continuing improvement in the growth profile of our business.
This is being driven by a good contribution from the former Bestfoods brands
notwithstanding the easier comparator as we come off the Q3 2000 trade load.
We also have momentum from Spreads and Tea in Europe, Spreads in the United
States, Slim.Fast and from Ice Cream. Sales have also been boosted by pricing
action as we draw back the adverse gross margin effect that we saw in quarter

In Home and Personal Care we see strong growth in our European business and
broad based growth from our leading Personal Care brands. In the quarter we
also see similar short term influences on sales growth to those that we talked
about with last quarter's results:

  * Firstly, as we expected we are experiencing softer Prestige Fragrance
    sales with an underlying sales decline of some 20% projected for the
    quarter. This is equivalent to some Euro 70 million of sales.
  * Secondly, we continue to see the trade off with volume as we recover
    margin in key Developing and Emerging markets which have experienced

So, in summary, we expect Home and Personal Care to show an increased growth
rate for the full year, but with a slower growth rate in the quarter due to
the short term influences of Prestige and Developing and Emerging markets.
Taking this together with the improved growth profile of Foods, we expect
leading brands in the quarter to grow between 4 and 4.5%.

We expect underlying sales growth for the year to be close to 4% with around
3% in the fourth quarter. Within the fourth quarter we expect a continuing
strong contribution from price:

  * firstly, in our developing and emerging market branded businesses where
    we seek to recover the cost increases mentioned earlier. Whilst this again
    has a short term effect on volumes we know that this is a necessary but
    also brief phase our business will go through on the way to full margin
  * and secondly, in the non-branded tail of businesses such as commodity
    edible oils and which also has a consequent negative effect on underlying
    volume as we pursue strategies to harvest value;

Including the effect of disposals we expect total sales in the quarter to
decline by around 1%. In the fourth quarter the disposal effect is made up of
Elizabeth Arden, the brands sold to Campbell's, the sale of Gorton's and a
number of other smaller transactions. The combined loss of sales from all
these disposals represents Euro550 million in the quarter.

Review of Regions

Let me now take you on a very short tour of our regions starting first with
Europe. The operating margins quoted are all beia.

In Europe we expect underlying sales growth of some 4% offset by disposals of
just over 6%. Operating margin is expected to be ahead by around 350 bps.

In North America sales are expected to be down by between 5 and 6% of which
disposals amount to some 4%. Operating margin is expected to be ahead by
around 250 bps.

In Africa and the Middle East, we expect sales to move ahead by some 3% with
underlying sales growth of 9% being offset by a disposal effect of just under
6%. Operating margin is expected to be up by around 50 bps.

In Asia Pacific a disposal effect of around 1.5% partly offsets underlying
sales growth of 4% to give total sales progression of just under 3%. Operating
margin is expected to move ahead by over 300 bps.

In Latin America total sales are expected to be ahead by around 4% with a
strong contribution from price more than offsetting underlying volume
declines. Operating margin is expected to be ahead by a little over 50 bps.

P&L Account

Finally, let me turn to the other elements of the Profit and Loss account.

Goodwill amortisation is estimated to be Euro355 million in the quarter.

Net interest is estimated at Euro400 million.

Exceptional items for the quarter for Path to Growth and the Bestfoods
integration are forecast to be around Euro800 million before tax and around
Euro560 million after tax.

We expect the underlying tax rate in the quarter to be between 32 and 33% and
I would like to remind you that Bestfoods goodwill is not tax deductible.

The number of shares for calculating the full year EPS is 983 million NV
equivalent share units or 6.55 billion if you take the PLC equivalent share


So in summary business conditions in the second half of the year have
certainly been more challenging than we had anticipated at the start of the
year. However, our business is again showing its natural resilience. This has
then been further strengthened by the Path to Growth programme and it is
through this combination, allied with our renowned strength for successfully
managing our operations through periods of economic difficulty that we remain
confident of delivering our low double digit earnings per share growth target
in 2001.


SAFE HARBOUR STATEMENT: This presentation may contain forward-looking
statements (within the meaning of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation
Reform Act 1995) based on our best current information and what we believe to
be reasonable assumptions about anticipated developments. Words such as
'expects', 'anticipates', 'intends' and other similar expressions are intended
to identify such forward looking-statements. Because of the risks and
uncertainties that always exist in any operating environment or business we
cannot give any assurance that the expectations reflected in these statements
will prove correct. Actual results and developments may differ materially
depending upon, among other factors, currency values, competitive pricing,
consumption levels, costs, environmental risks, physical risks, risks related
to the integration of acquisitions, legislative, fiscal and regulatory
developments and political and social conditions in the economies and
environments where Unilever operates. Further details of these potential risks
and uncertainties are given in the Unilever Annual Report and Accounts and
Form 20-F 2000. You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these
forward-looking statements.


December 19 2001


a d v e r t i s e m e n t